Comedic Elements in Emma
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Table of Contents
In Emma, we experience Jane Austen alter and redefine a range of comic conventions of plot, character, and theme, creating comic effects that are sophisticated and nuanced, and that deepening the emotional impact of the comic romance as a narrative form. Austen’s adaptations of such character types as the braggart soldier (reimagined in Mrs. Elton) and of the killjoy, the refuser of festivity (reimagined in Mr. Woodhouse), complement her reworking of plot devices such as the anagnorisis (comic discovery) and peripeteia (reversal of fortune) to build a narrative that extends the affective and aesthetic power of the comic novel.
In particular, Austen advances the comic novel through her original recasting of the protagonist in multiple comic roles: at various points in the narrative, Emma plays the trickster, the ingénue (an innocent or unsophisticated young woman), the fool, and the blocking character. Thus, the happy ending in Emma relies on the heroine getting past herself more than getting past other people, an innovation that takes the comic romance to a new level of psychological real...